After sailing in troubled waters for a long time, the Amadea now seems doomed to the clear waters of the South Pacific. For ten days, this monster of 107 meters, weighing more than 4,400 tons, has been prohibited from leaving the port of Lautoka, the second largest city in the Pacific archipelago. The American government is doing everything to seize this four-storey super yacht surmounted by three imposing radars: the American authorities suspect the ship to be the property of the businessman Suleyman Kerimov, nicknamed “the richest official in Russia”, an oligarch under US sanctions since 2018. According to MarineTraffic, a marine analytics firm, the estimated $325million vessel arrived from Mexico – after eighteen days at sea hoping to escape to penalties. It is officially flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.
The Amadea is currently ‘prevented from leaving Fijian waters’ until U.S. authorities finalize their warrant to seize the ship, Fiji Attorney General Christopher Pryde said last week, adding that a restraining order request had been filed by authorities in the archipelago. .
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine on February 24, the Russian oligarchs and their luxury shacks have been in the crosshairs of the European Union and the United States. The decision to seize Kerimov’s Amadea comes at a time when Western countries are trying to step up aid efforts for Ukraine. Beyond arms deliveries or humanitarian and financial support, Westerners are rushing to seize and freeze the assets of wealthy Russians scattered around the world but all sanctioned for their links with President Vladimir Putin. Suleyman Kerimov, considered the richest man in the country, is part of the lot.
The “Russian Gatsby”
In this matter, the US Embassy said it was cooperating with local Fijian authorities. “We continue to increase the pressure on Putin’s oligarchs and we are working with our allies and partners to track down the corrupt earnings of some of Putin’s closest individuals no matter where in the world they are held,” the embassy said.
On the side of the ship, we defend ourselves. Posing as a representative of the Amadea, a yacht agent in Fiji said last week that the ship’s lawyers disputed its ownership by Kerimov, according to Reuters.
Kerimov, a 56-year-old former Duma elected official, is also at the center of a broad investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Their goal: to uncover the financial package adopted by the businessman and his acolytes. If the authorities hope to unravel the mystery of the maze of corporate structures created from scratch by the oligarch in order to mask his astronomical wealth, they recognize that the mission is tough.
An investigation led by NBC News has reviewed major leaks of financial documents such as the “Pandora Papers” as illustrating the difficulties Western governments face in enforcing sanctions against Russian oligarchs such as Kerimov. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the man, also known as the “Russian Gatsby”, has been subject to additional sanctions from Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union. Except that so far, its assets seem to have come out unscathed. Kerimov, who is also the owner of Polyus, Russia’s biggest gold mine, always seems to be one step ahead.
A tattoo artist, a beautician and a retiree
Because this son of a lawyer and accountant at Sberbank, well known on the Côte-d’Azur, excels in the art of financial arrangements. Suspected of having discreetly moved fortunes through nominees, some of whom are far from unknown to the Côte d’Azur justice, the “Panama Papers” revealed that a myriad of offshore companies were potentially linked to the official Russian. Empty shells, created in a few minutes, which are used to transit hundreds of millions of euros in the environment of Kerimov. The ICIJ consortium has thus identified a dozen electronic transfers carried out in the space of two years, for a total amount of 700 million dollars. Money movements made by companies based in the British Virgin Islands. A tattoo artist from Lucerne, a beautician, a retiree: the journalists of the Geneva Grandstand have identified about twenty nominees.
If the examination of the Panama Papers has not yet made it possible to identify the final destination of the hundreds of millions of dollars transferred by the network of Lucerne nominees, the ICIJ has identified that many of them work , or worked, for Swiss businessman Alexander Studhalter. The latter was remanded in custody in 2018 by the Nice court. At that time, French justice was investigating the purchase of several villas at Cap d’Antibes. On paper, the Swiss Studhalter was the official owner of this 12,000 m² land complex. Behind the Swiss, the authorities suspect Suleyman Kerimov who has never ceased to escape justice. In 2018, a deposit of 40 million paid illico had allowed him to avoid the same fate as his straw man. Until when ? Western countries continue their hunt.